by Kim Roman Corle

We all have encountered people in our lives who frustrate us, bully us, intimidate us, drive us to distraction, or downright make us fearful for our own physical and/or emotional well-being.

Does this sound familiar? You are an experienced coach and have just finished successfully coaching your client through a huge, complex project. It was exceptionally difficult and you did a really good job. Your client, a CEO who is often difficult, refers to the project, but rather than praising your good work, he criticizes you in a demeaning and condescending tone for a one typo he found in one of your memos. He walks out smiling but you feel totally belittled, shamed, undermined, and insecure.

Or how about this scenario? As I walked behind a couple coming out of a store I heard a husband screaming that they “just didn’t need the stupid extra options she wanted on their new fricking stove.” She replied he never touched the stove… she did all the cooking. He increased his aggressiveness and moved his body in front of hers. And that was it, she reacted instinctively. Fed up with his verbal assault, she began yelling back, and her arguing escalated the fight. Last I saw them, they were still standing in the parking lot yelling and screaming at each other.

Have you experienced anything like this, have you been ‘her’? I have. I had a “bully” client shame me and belittle me to control me instead of encouraging me and praising me for helping him look good. I’ve had a spouse scream and yell at me for shopping at the wrong grocery store. My own mother even quietly told me that she didn’t have to have me and that I owed her my life and had to do what she wanted (!).

Difficult, controlling and toxic people abound. They are in our offices, schools and homes. As difficult as these people are, we can’t fix, change, or control them. But what can we do? We can focus on our own behavior and manage how we respond. Through years of testing, reading, researching and discovery, I’ve learned how to keep myself out of the toxic trot and keep these aggressiveness types tamed.

Learning Assertive Communication can change your life. Some of the powerful, successful coping tools we’ll discuss in theory and in practical application include:

  1. Stay out of the ring.
  2. Communicate with power.
  3. Stand up.
  4. Set good boundaries
  5. Use “I” statements…
    …and more!

Life can be messy and it’s our job to clean ourselves up, find the good and carry on. Learning how to manage these situations changed my life from one of reactive, worried and anxious concern, to one of control and calm. Perhaps author Charles Swindoll said it best: “The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it. And so it is with you… we are in charge of our Attitudes.”

You, too, can learn to successfully use all of the coping tools we’ll discuss and develop the skills to be the assertive communication ninja you’ve always wanted to be!